San Francisco, California in 1916

When I received my paper in the morning – until the war made that function, even in California, a melancholy one – I used to look first at the pictures of the women. Then always I turned to the sporting page to see what record had been broken since yesterday and, if it were Saturday morning (I confess it without shame), to read the joyous account of Friday night’s boxing contest. And, always before I settled to the important news of the day, I read the last “stunt.”

Cliff House and Seal Rocks, San Francisco

Cliff House and Seal Rocks, San Francisco

Picturesque “stunts” are always being pulled off in San Francisco. Was it the late lamented Beachey flying with a pretty girl around the half-completed Tower of Jewels, was it a pretty actress selling roses at the Lotta Fountain for the benefit of the Belgians, it was something amusing, stirring and characteristic. Always the “stunt” involved a lot of pretty girls and often it demanded the services of the mayor. I shall regret to the end of my days that I did not keep a scrapbook devoted to Mayor Rolph’s activities. For being mayor of San Francisco is no sinecure. But as most of his public duties seemed to involve floods of pretty girls – well, if I were a man it would be my ambition to be mayor of San Francisco for the rest of my life.

The year I spent in California they were building the Exposition. They made of that task, as they make of every task, a game and a play and a lark – a joy and a delight – even though they were building under the most discouraging conditions that an exposition ever encountered. But nothing daunts the Californian, and so wood and iron, mortar and paint, grew steadily into the dream city that later fronted the bay.

As I think it over, I am very glad that I did not tell the Californiacs how beautiful Massachusetts is. Because it would only have bewildered them. I am glad that I did not mention to them that I shall always cherish a kind of feeling for Massachusetts that I can develop for no other spot. Because it would only have hurt them. You must not tell a Californiac that you love any place but California or that you have found beauty elsewhere. It’s like breaking an engagement of marriage with a girl. It’s like telling a child that there’s no such person as Santa Claus. There’s no tactful way of wording it. It simply can’t be done. And I am very glad that I told the Californiacs all the time how much I love California, how much I love San Francisco. For beauty, California is like the fresh, glowing, golden crescent moon; it is waxing steadily to a noble fullness of development; and San Francisco is like the glittering evening-star; it fills the Pacific night with the happy radiance of its light and life. I think of California always – with its unabated fighting strength – as a champion among States. It takes the stranger – that champion State – under its mighty protection and gives him of its strength and happiness. It is more fun to be sick in California than to be well anywhere else. And I think of San Francisco always – the spirit of Tamalpais in the air – as an Amazon among cities. Its people love “the city” because, within the memory of man it was built, and within the memory of child, rebuilt. They themselves helped to build and rebuild it. They have worked and fought for it through every inch and instant of

its history. It takes the stranger – that Amazon city – into its great, warm, beating mother-heart. If you are sick it makes you well. If you are sad it makes you glad. It infuses you with its working spirit. It inspires you with its fighting spirit. It asks you to work and fight with it. Massachusetts never permitted me to work or fight for it. Woman is as yet, in no real sense, a citizen there. And the result is that I love California as I love no other State, and San Francisco as I love no other city. I have no

real criticism to bring against the Californiac. In fact, reader – ah, I see you’ve guessed it. I’m a Californiac myself.


San Francisco, California Skyline by Carol Highsmith

San Francisco, California Skyline by Carol Highsmith

By Inez Haynes Irwin, 1916. Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June, 2017.

About the Author:  This article is excerpted from the article, The Californiacs, which appeared in Sunset, the Pacific Monthly, in February, 1916. Written by Inez Haynes Irwin, who hailed from Brazil. She was married to writer Will Irwin and served as a correspondent for several magazines in France, England and Italy during World War I. She was also a fiction writer and published several books. She died in 1970.

Also See:

Fort Point – Standing Guard at the Golden Gate

Presidio Of San Francisco

George Hearst – Father of a Mining & Publishing Empire

Harlots of the Barbary Coast

The Long History of Alcatraz Island


San Francisco Slideshow:


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